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94. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Lost In Translation

January 23, 2018

Director: Sofia Coppola
Screenplay: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris, Fumihiro Hayashi
Runtime: 101 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 2004

 

★★★★☆

 

Sofia Coppola’s second feature follows her themes established in The Virgin Suicides; those of unfulfilled dreams and loneliness, and those of people forming meaningful relationships that will stay with them long after their time has moved on.

 

The title, Lost in Translation, obviously speaks for more than its bared context. Beyond the extensive language barrier that is restricting the abilities of our two western leads in this almost alien world, you get the impression that in their efforts to please their own families and partners that they have relinquished their ability to follow their own desires. Unseen and longing for more, Bill Murray’s Bob and Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte find each other.

 

Coppola knows that it simply isn’t enough to hit the required narrative beats of the drama, which is why she holds the film back in calmer moments of silence and contemplation while the characters wonder and sit alone – as such, the two leads don’t even meet until 30 minutes in. This is most poignant in the karaoke sequence, where amongst the ramble of fun pop tunes and knowing lyrical reference points, there’s that lingering glance that goes on a moment too long, that moment of significance where their guard falls and exposes their true selves to one another.

 

The romance blossoming out of their friendship, while expected, creeps up so slowly that it’s almost too late before you realise they’re both doomed. A prolonged goodbye in the elevator of half kissed faces makes this all the more agonising to watch. Murray is prime stunt casting in his ageing movie star persona, but his set-pieces of dry wit sustain the levity of its subject matter, while Johansson is a gorgeous revelation of emotional baggage and distance.

 

Coppola is far more potent and confident in her direction here, showing the stamp of a true auteur in a contemporary landscape, utilising the aesthetic as a means of exploring their states of mind; Bob's undisturbed security and Charlotte’s pining desire to be set free, and bringing them together slowly through the components of set dressing, lighting and framing as they invade each other's barriers. Figures lost in the neon’s and sights of a world perpetually moving forward with rest, lost behind doors and windows in their own cones of silent anguish and unnoticed distress.

 

This is 21st-century cinema at its most moving and vital of forms, even if at times it’s artistic reference is to a mere end of beauty for the sake of beauty, this is Coppola’s most sincere and significant work.

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